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Iran may develop nuclear weapons and pull out from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if international pressure against its nuclear program continues, a senior Iranian official warned yesterday.

The statements made by Iranian Parliament Vice Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar mark the first time a senior Iranian official specifically mentioned the development of nuclear weapons as part of the country's nuclear program, which to date Tehran had insisted was for peaceful purposes.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday that his country poses no threat to Israel, and that no one can deprive Iran of its right to nuclear technology.

"No one can deprive a nation of its rights based on its capabilities," he said in a speech to inaugurate a new phase of a heavy-water reactor project southwest of Tehran.

"Iran is not a threat to anybody, not even to the Zionist regime," he said.

"They may impose some restrictions on us under pressure. But will they be able to prevent the thoughts of a nation? Will they be able to prevent the progress and technology of a nation? They have to accept the reality of a powerful, peace-loving and developed Iran. This is in the interest of all governments and all nations, whether they like it or not," he said.

Ahmadinejad inaugurated the project and toured the site at Khondab, near Arak, 190 kilometers southwest of the capital Tehran. The plant's plutonium by-product could be used to make atomic warheads.

The pressure Iran is concerned with includes plans by the U.S. administration to bypass the Security Council and impose economic sanctions on Iran because of Tehran's refusal to abide by the United Nations resolution ordering it to cease its uranium enrichment program, sources at UN headquarters in New York said on Friday.

According to the sources at the UN, American officials are convinced the chances of passing a Security Council resolution imposing economic sanctions on Iran are flimsy because Russia and China have decided not to support the proposal.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov said yesterday that it is too early to discuss economic sanctions against Iran and went as far as to say that Moscow opposed any form of sanctions.